Everton chief Ronald Koeman has backed Middlesbrough to win their battle for survival after Saturday’s gutsy goalless draw at the Riverside Stadium.
Boro substitute Rudy Gestede saw a late header brilliantly saved by Joel Robles and captain Ben Gibson also went close but Boro saw their winless run stretch to eight top-flight games.
Koeman, whose own side had chances to win it through Romelu Lukaku and Ademola Lookman, said he believed Boro counterpart Aitor Karanka has enough at his disposal to beat the drop.
Koeman said: “Of course you need to score to win games but they are difficult to beat and they showed that today, and it gives confidence to the team if they can keep clean sheets.
“Adama Traore and Gaston Ramirez are really creative players and they support the strikers. In my opinion, they are strong enough to keep their position in the Premier League.”
Koeman revealed he left James McCarthy and Kevin Mirallas out of the squad for the trip to the Riverside Stadium but expects them both to be back to face Sunderland in a fortnight.
Koeman added: “James had a little bit of stiffness after last weekend and with his history of injuries I did not want to take any risks and left him out of the 18.
“Kevin had a groin problem, so it was the same. I prefer to have really fit players on the bench and that is why they were not in the squad.”
For Karanka it was very much the same old story with his side’s solid defensive display coming at the cost of sustained attacking intent.
But there were plenty of positives in the way his side set about their task, having clearly won over the home supporters, who had incurred Karanka’s wrath for their apparent impatience last month.
Adam Clayton was a towering presence in the centre for the home side and the return of Ramirez as a second-half substitute after six games out due to injury was also a timely boost.
Karanka said: “I don’t want to be complacent because we played really well but we have just one point, so we have to keep going and playing at least the way we have today. We don’t have a lot of Premier League experience but we are adding to this experience. In our last five games against top 10 teams, we have competed against them all.
“I am really positive about this because when we play against teams who are fighting with us in the relegation positions, we will win more games.”
Middlesbrough: Valdes, Chambers, Bernardo, Gibson, Da Silva, de Roon, Clayton, Forshaw (Guedioura 58), Traore, Negredo (Gestede 82), Stuani (Ramirez 67). Unused substitutes: Ayala, Leadbitter, Guzan, Downing.
Everton: Robles, Coleman, Ashley Williams, Funes Mori, Baines, Davies, Schneiderlin, Gana (Valencia 62), Barkley (Barry 87), Lukaku, Lookman (Lennon 73). Unused substitutes: Jagielka, Kone, Stekelenburg, Holgate.
Referee: M Dean (Wirral).